I’ve been diagnosed as a coeliac for nigh on 5 years now and I can say with confidence that I’ve a pretty good handle on it. That is until other folk (or should I say non-coeliacs) who don’t have an understanding of it come along and undermine and undo all my hard work. ARGH!!!
Managing this condition is reeeeally hard. It’s super restrictive, I can’t eat what I want when I feel like it, I have to be super prepared at all times lest I end up food-less and starving while out and about. Not only that, if a coeliac does accidentally consume gluten they usually have to suffer the consequences: stomach pain and swelling, burning acid reflux, irritability for hours until the inflammation dies down… need I go on? Did I also mention us coeliacs then have to pay for the privilege with our specialist food costing anywhere from 2-3 times the price of regular food? And I’m not talking fancy items here…I’m talking a bog standard, tiny loaf of gluten-free bread even has to be budgeted for – no 0.99 cent loafs for me!
Well meaning family and friends try their best to accommodate my dietary needs (even though I break into a cold sweat every time someone declares they’ve made me a ‘gluten-free’ dish) and I really try to have patience – but seriously, unless you suffer from it and have done MOUNTAINS of research about cross-contamination and how to correctly prepare and serve the food – then please don’t tell me it’s safe to eat, cause chances are it probably isn’t.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful! But I think that as a young woman a lot of people don’t take my condition seriously as they think I’ve jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon as some kind of fashionable, lifestyle choice. Believe me – I wouldn’t wish this disease on my worst enemy. Would you expect someone with a nut allergy to consume a chicken satay cause ‘sure there’s only a tiny bit in the sauce’? Would you expect a diabetic to eat a huge slab of creamy filled, sugary chocolate cake just cause you spent hours baking it? If someone had a dairy allergy would you refuse to serve them tea, or make them feel like they are being awkward or fussy, for needing it without milk? I doubt it.
I’m grateful that I do have a handful of people close to me that I would trust to cook me a meal as they take my needs seriously, but I have to say I really wish there was a bit more education available about it for those who don’t because at the end of the day, I read that now one in a hundred people in Ireland may have the condition. That’s a lot!
I’ve worked in enough cafes in my life to know how many people advertise their food as gluten-free when it’s anything but. And part of me can’t help but feel annoyed at those for joining the gluten-free ‘fad’ diet craze (without the burden of actually being a coeliac) for flaming this frustrating situation. I feel like it’s trivialised it somewhat and the true coeliacs are the ones that suffer.
As I get older and care less about what people think, I’ve found myself turning into what we’ve affectionately daubed me as the ‘Coeliac Police’.
So this serves as a warning to anyone who dares offer me fake ‘gluten-free’ food in a cafe or restaurant or shop or whatever! I’ll catch you out, make you feel awful for risking my health, and shame you into educating yourself after you try to tell me those new gluten-free pancakes on your menu are OK for me to eat, when in actual fact they are cooked simultaneously in the same pan as the wheat-filled ones. How DARE you!! And then you’ve the cheek to charge me extra for a smaller portion? I don’t think so.
Coeliac disease is a serious condition. Left untreated it can lead to osteoporosis, diabetes, anaemia, infertility and yup, cancer.
So don’t be offended if I politely refuse your food when I’m unsure if it’s safe. You can take it personally if you want – but I’d take it personally too if I developed bowel cancer from spending my life sparing your feelings and being too ‘polite’.
Sorry… not sorry. 😉